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AIDA, Next Step, Qualify, Close, Deliver etc.

B2B Buying Cycle – extending AIDA to create a closed loop

Have you considered, or mapped out, the steps that your prospect go through, their B2B buying cycle?

  • Think about the steps you went through for some of your recent purchases.

The traditional marketing model has four steps; Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action, known by the acronym ‘AIDA’. For more complex purchases and in the business to business market some models have 5, 6 or 7 steps, some involving a Trial before Action. However, there are two aspects that Wurlwind puts forward as modifications to AIDA.

  1. The first is to add the Reward stage at the end, to recognise the importance to the buyer of the post-purchase experience. This is the time when support, calls to customer service, etc could occur. It is also the period when happy customers could be encouraged and be willing to provide testimonials, endorsements, referrals and so on.
  2. The second is to recognise that in some complex buying situations there are multiple action steps, one of which might be trial. This could be treated as a Loop, repeating steps in AIDA but at progressive levels. We believe this approach builds in flexibility for different buying cycles, even between different customers or people within a decision-making unit.

To give an example related to a major project:

  1. Investigation for larger projects need to be justified internally in order to get resource. This involves the AIDA sequence even when the Action is to commit say 20 man days for a feasibility study and requirements specification.
  2. The search for potential suppliers leading to selection of one vendor for a pilot project is another AIDA sequence.
  3. The pilot project progression to a full implementation could be seen as a Loop through the IDA steps.

A second example concerns the trial or Freemium versions of software:

  1. The AIDA sequence to sign up for a free trial of software may be relatively simple.
  2. However, as many vendors are finding, the buying process to move from trial to paid-for license is much more of a challenge. Clearly Awareness and Interest are already present. However the Desire may have waned as other tasks and priorities overtake the initial Desire and Action.

See if you can write down the steps that your buyers go through, and even talk this through with some of your closer customers. Along the way you will find out things like:

  • What was the compelling event or trigger that created Awareness?
  • What raised their Interest in the topic, and helped to define their need?
  • What questions came up along the way?
  • What were the emotional, personal, professional and financial pay-offs that fostered the Desire?
  • What concerns and risk came up during the process?
  • What information did they needed, for themselves, and for others?
  • What influenced their decision to make a choice and take a specific Action?

A clear understanding of the buying cycle will help to improve the sales cycle, and increase sales effectiveness.

Event driven selling as the core to your B2B sales process

Selling, and buying, can be looked at as a series of events.

An event driven selling approach helps when analysing what is taking place within the sales cycle, and also in the buying cycle.

It enables improvements to be made, in effectiveness and efficiency.

What is a selling event?

There are several things that can be termed ‘events’ in the sales journey, such as:

  • Face-to-face meeting opportunities are events – including exhibitions, network meetings, presentations, first meetings and so on.
  • Online meetings – such as webinars, conference calls, skype presentations, etc.
  • Smaller touch-points – like phone calls, email, sms, that might build relationships
  • Commercial activities such as quotations, proposals, negotiations, contract signings
  • Product or service events, such as announcement of a new product or service, or the launch of a new release
  • Vendor calendar and accounting events particularly period end points, such as month, quarter and year end
  • Buyer calendar events such as their sales peaks, renewals, financial year, budget submissions, regulations
  • Buyer process events such as ITT issue, response deadline, short-list of potential suppliers, taking up references
  • Competitor events, such as release or discontinuation of a product, arrival or departure of key staff

These are just some of examples, and there may be many more that are specific to your company and your customers.

The compelling event

One thing that vendors are on the look out for are specific, time based, reasons why a buyer needs to make a decision, rather than allow a situation to drift on and keep with the status quo. There might be a compliance aspect to this, such as a new law or regulation.

In the absence of external deadlines the vendor has to work hard to make their events ‘compelling’.

Event driven selling framework

Looking at your sales cycle as a sequence of events can help you create a blueprint, template or framework for marketing and sales.

It is a way to identify the ‘next step’ that you’d like the prospect to take, and your call-to-action.

Disconnect events from time

While there can be advantages to having a specific time in the diary, for a conference or a meeting, there are advantages of allowing the prospect to attend an event at a time of their own choosing. Making a recording of a live webinar, and making that recording available for people to watch subsequently, is one way to re-use content and create additional events.

The new connected world that has been created by the Internet and new systems and applications can increase returns and reduce the costs of live events.

More significantly, especially for smaller businesses, it creates massive new opportunities, by breaking the constraints of time and place. Running an ‘event’ for one prospect, at a time of their choosing, is now a realistic sales opportunity.

Event-driven selling provides a structure and focus for many marketing activities that otherwise might not be showing a clear return for cost and time.

Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing and Attraction Marketing are just some of the latest techniques that can make a significant contribution, when aligned with a structured, sales-focused plan.

However, an end-to-end approach is far more effective overall than individual, isolated, disconnected activities, no matter how attractive they may seem.

The Wurlwind event driven selling blueprint provides a framework, methodology, and roadmap to help founders, directors and managers of small and mid-sized businesses (SMEs) in Business to Business (B2B) to respond to market challenges by taking advantage of new opportunities in a joined-up and focused way.

It will help you to identify and take advantage of new selling techniques, new technologies and applications, sort out the substance from the froth, and build a stronger pipeline and sales infrastructure.

Lead qualification – an essential part of B2B lead generation

Since you are reading this you probably have a challenge in the lead generation area. If it’s any consolation you’re not alone.

  • MarketingSherpa: Over 80% of companies surveyed said a lack of “quality sales leads” is their single biggest challenge. (Up from 70% last year!)
  • CEO Insights: found the lowest percentage of salespeople making quota ever tested.
  • Sirius Decisions: found that companies with fewer, better qualified leads sold more than companies with lots of leads.

So, what can be done about it?

Define what a good lead and opportunity looks like

Whether you run a marketing and sales team, or if you’re on your own, a vital step at the start of B2B lead generation is to decide and agree what is actually a ‘good’ lead.

Also, since there are many terms used, such as; suspect, prospect, inquiry, lead, opportunity and others, agreement to a common vocabulary across the marketing and sales team removes misunderstanding.

A ‘qualified opportunity’ is more specific than a ‘lead’, and will need to meet many criteria that you identify as right for your business.

Lead qualification – The MAN

A simple approach is to check you are ‘Selling to the MAN‘ – Money, Authority, Need.

Apply this to lead generation to help you aim where there is a budget (or current expenditure), high up the organisation (owner, director etc) and to a Need, or Pain, especially if it has a date associated with it, such as a regulatory requirement.

Lead qualification – SCOTSMAN

Another qualification ‘tool’ with a pneumonic that I’ve applied is SCOTSMAN, which is particularly useful for higher value project sales.

It stands for:

  • Solution – that the prospect clearly wants what you have a track record of delivering, otherwise there’s a mis-fit at the start
  • Competition – that you are competing with similar organisations, if not then chances are one of you is in the wrong race, or the prospect is unclear about what they want
  • Originality – once you can ‘meet requirements’ what additional elements do you offer that this prospect values, that differentiate you
  • Timescale – to quick or too protracted could be a warning sign, but it also depends on your workload. If you are at capacity then there’s no value taking on another urgent project. If you are not the reverse would apply.
  • Size – size of client and size of opportunity, relative to you and the client. If your sweet spot is a £20k initial project with a £500k t/o company then any major deviation could be a warning sign and a risk.
  • Money – is the budget assigned, or does it still need to be justified, or is it dependent of other factors, like the client winning a big contract themselves.
  • Authority – are you talking to and building a good relationship with the decision-maker – because if not, who else might be?
  • Need – is there a compelling business need and justification for the purchase, and if they didn’t go ahead what would be the impact. Understanding this will help when building justification and gaining the go-ahead.

Wurlwind can provide a review to help you keep this in mind when creating your marketing campaigns; to educate the readers of your communication and pre-qualify your inquiries and leads towards your USPs and criteria.

Wurlwind can also help you clarify and develop the criteria of a ‘good’ lead. We can then help you to use this as the basis for other elements of your lead generation campaigns.

B2B buyer cycle – rewarding your prospects along the way

Having a clear understanding of your Buyers, their Buying Behaviour and their Buyer Cycle will provide a solid foundation to help you build effective prospecting and sales relationships.

Apply these principles to the next conversation you have with a prospect, to your next email, and to social prospecting in LinkedIn and you could start to see a dramatic improvement in responses.

The emotional side of relationship building can be enhanced by rewarding the behaviour you are trying to encourage.  And, if you’re a sales leader you’ll need a number of tools in your bag to use at appropriate times. This could just be a very valuable technique to build into your sales methods, if you don’t already use it.

Simple Buyer Cycle – AIDA

Our starting point is to highlight that there’s still a lot of value in the AIDA pneumonic from the 1960s:

  1. Awareness/Attention
  2. Interest
  3. Desire
  4. Action

Our extension of this is to add on:

5. Reward

In complex purchase typical of B2B situations there isn’t the instant gratification of ownership or consumption that is the post-purchase reward typical of a B2C transaction. However, the principle still applies in B2B, it’s just we need to be more creative (and ethical) with the rewards offered.

Small steps to make a purchase

Making a purchase can be a straight forward process, particularly with simple purchases. For more complex purchases there are multiple steps and stages to go through. The buyer may well go through some of these stages with multiple potential supplier.

Consider the different ‘ACTION’ stages that a buyer may take is the heart of understanding the process.

  • The ACTION may be commitment of attention – to respond to a call for attention, the advert, the email subject line, the ‘Like’ of a friend or influencer and the decisions to investigate to see what they’ve found so interesting.
  • The ACTION may be the commitment of time – to attend a meeting, a webinar, to read an article or the many other activities that are needed to investigate and research a solution and a supplier.
  • The ACTION may be the commitment of money – the purchase, contract, payment and associated activity. Here there is a commercial commitment which will have a lot of risk associated.

There may well be several ‘ACTION’ steps to make a purchase, especially when there are multiple decision-makers.

Rewarding Action in the B2B Buyer Cycle

Meeting and exceeding expectations is a significant part of winning hearts and minds of customers and prospects.

Having got attention based on an advert, email headline, voicemail or other method there needs to be a quick payback to pass the nano-second judgement of ‘is this worthwhile’ taking the next step.

Having committed time to reading or viewing or meeting etc. there needs again to be a significant payback to the prospect to justify the time commitment, whether this is seconds, minutes  hours or days. Time is money for people in business  and there is no shortage of calls on time. The message, content or other ‘fulfillment’ needs to amuse, inform, educate, inspire or in other ways impress the reader or viewer.

And then having made a purchase the customer needs to obtain the reward ahead of their expectations, either more quickly, at less cost or higher than anticipated, in order to feel very positive about the decision and investment they have made.

How are you aligning with your buyer cycle?

Take a moment to review a current sales campaign and see if you can:

  1. Identify the multiple steps that your buyers go through to make a purchase.
    • Prioritise these based on number of buyers going through a step and the impact it has on their purchase.
  2. Consider each of the marketing and sales elements you have created.
    • Evaluate each element for how well it meets one or more of the buyer steps above.
  3. Focus more time and resources on those high impact activities.
    • Back your winners, and look for more ways to develop and enhance them
  4. Reduce time and resources on those activities that do not produce a healthy result.
    • There’s no value in continuing to do things that add little or no value to your prospects.
  • Consider learning from and eliminating those elements that are low value and low volume.

However, innovation is important, so do spend some time and resource to evaluate and pilot new approaches, and keep in tune with changes on the buyer cycle that your prospects and customers go through.

Rewarding Action through LinkedIn

A good way to do this in LinkedIn is to have some valuable content to direct people to. This could be on a broadcast basis, through Status Updates, to smaller groups through LinkedIn Email-shots, or 1:1 using the LinkedIn messaging system.

Another is to thank people in a public way, especially if they have added comments and shared your content with their connections.

What ways do you use to reward your prospect and customers?




B2B sales cycle – align with the buying cycle

The B2B sales cycle should reflect the process the buyer or buying team goes through, in order to improve conversions and reduce cost and effort.

The Wurlwind sales funnel framework works on a 5 step sales cycle:

  1. Attract – use various techniques so prospects find you
  2. Engage – where you gain permission to communicate
  3. Nurture – develop a simple interest into a qualified opportunity
  4. Transact – the actual selling process
  5. Deliver – where you fulfill the order and the customer gets value
  6. Recycle – collaborating with customers to feed the sales funnel

The first 4 stages are covered elsewhere on this website and need less introduction than the last two.

The B2B sales cycle from Wurlwind

Wurlwind Sales Funnel Journey

Deliver – providing  value to clients

The Delivery stage is included in the sales cycle for several reasons.

  • Customer expectations have been set through the early stages, and it’s essential to at least meet these.
  • Thinking through ways to deliver value to customers quickly after they sign up will help to meet and exceed expectations.

Social Media has given customers a route to express their feelings in a way previously not possible.

  • Positive customers can share their praise and high opinion of your company and its products or services.
  • Dis-satisfied customers also have a channel to vent their unhappiness.

Recycle – turbocharging your sales funnel

In addition, there is a sixth activity that does not follow the linear progression, but has an impact on all five stages.

This activity could feed back into any stage through the sales cycle.

  • It may be triggered because a potential customer has not responded to some of your messages or offers and has not chosen to move to ‘the next step’. Therefore it’s appropriate to recycle through a sequence and try again.
  • They may have taken action, bought something, and now be receptive to remarketing, as an upsell or cross-sell.
  • Or they may have shown commitment at any or all stages above and be prepared to endorse and support your efforts in one or many ways that are now possible, particularly by providing you with content to share, or by sharing content with their connections.

Designing these options to recycle into your own sales funnel will create considerable returns. It may not be such a high volume activity as customer acquisition, but it can have such a powerful capability to accelerate sales other activities and results that it justifies the effort, even for lower volumes.